EASTOVER, S.C. --
It's just past 5 a.m., and nearly two dozen U.S. Airmen are responding to what may be multiple terror threats in a nearby village. They suit up in protective gear and grab essential equipment for the ruck from base camp to the village. Under the cover of darkness, the unsuspecting adversaries don't know what's coming. With night vision goggles, the Airmen crouch in a nearby tree line waiting for the signal. With one hand motion, the Airmen swiftly descend on the targets. This isn't a scene from the latest Hollywood movie but rather a description of some hyper-realistic training hosted by the South Carolina Air National Guard.
Twenty-one Airmen from the South Carolina Air National Guard and additional Air National Guard units from Alabama, D.C. and Tennessee participated in Emergency Management Battlefield Expeditionary Response training, also known as Fox EMBER, May 2-7, 2023, at the McCrady Training Center in Eastover, South Carolina.
The Airmen conducted training at this specially constructed mock village to simulate an austere overseas location.
The 169th Civil Engineer Squadron's Emergency Management flight designed and created this new Fox EMBER training to get Airmen off the grid and into an unrestrictive environment. The training replicates real-world scenarios involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear events that Airmen may experience in a deployed location.
SCANG personnel with emergency management, medical, bioenvironmental, security forces, and weapons of mass destruction specialties trained together to expand their knowledge base and skills during the six-day Fox EMBER training event.
Although the SCANG develops and maintains the required CBRN specialties at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, the training location at McCrady offers greater possibilities, according to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Powell, installation emergency manager assigned to the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron and Fox EMBER exercise lead.
"Our mission has changed, and McCrady's got the facilities we need. We have all this cool equipment, and we get to take it out there," Powell said.
The day before the exercise at McCrady, the Fox EMBER participants reported to McEntire JNGB to receive a refresher course on CBRN detection equipment and procedures from U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ja'maal Mosely, a weapons of mass destruction instructor assigned to the South Carolina National Guard's 43rd Civil Support Team.
To get the fully deployed experience, the Airmen stayed at McCrady's barracks throughout the exercise to simulate deployment conditions.
"Everything we are doing here is set up to be done downrange overseas," Powell said. "All these things can also be used domestically if we have to support the Civil Support Team in a response."
Although the Airmen received briefings and intel about the simulated threats leading up to the exercise, the instructors intentionally left some information out to maintain the element of surprise.
Throughout the morning, participants examined homemade laboratories used for making explosive devices and biological weapons. They also encountered a makeshift tunnel and a vehicle that contained suspected terror threats.
The instructors observed and graded the participants' responses while providing real-time guidance when needed.
Three teams of Airmen used clues left in each location by the exercise adversary, a site map, and their instincts to guide them through the course.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Angelica Gonzalez, emergency management specialist assigned to the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron, explained the advantages of getting off base for this larger-scale training.
"Back at our workshop, we usually test the equipment and practice, but we don't have real-life things or simulations we can test. So, coming out here and putting on the MOPP [Mission Oriented Protective Posture] gear with all these other outside factors such as environmental noises changes how you can handle these types of equipment," she said.
Concluding the event, Powell felt the participants came away with invaluable training experience, equipping them for potential real-world deployments.
He conveyed his plans to make Fox EMBER an annual event for the SCANG.
To see all the photos from Fox EMBER visit our Flickr album here.